By Michael Moum
The United Nations recently observed the 50th anniversary of its founding. This event was of particular interest to Baha'is because the central teaching of the Baha'i Faith is the unity of all mankind, as expressed in the following passage, written in 1936 by Shogi Effendi, then the head of the Baha'i Faith:
``Unification of the whole of mankind is the hall-mark of the stage which human society is now approaching. Unity of family, of tribe, of city, state and nation have been successively attempted and fully established. World unity is the goal towards which a harassed humanity is striving. Nation-building has come to an end. The anarchy inherent in state sovereignty is moving towards a climax. A world, growing to maturity, must abandon this fetish, recognize the oneness and wholeness of human relationships, and establish once for all the machinery that can best incarnate this fundamental principle of its life.''
World unity is thus seen as the culmination of a process which began long ago in human history. The unification of people into families and tribes, which occurred during the times of Abraham and Moses, were preliminary stages in human social development. While valuable in their own right _ in that they were conducive to human happiness, progress, and prosperity _ these lesser unities should also be regarded as stages in a historical process whose purpose is to embrace all people in an ever-expanding circle of unity and which will culminate when all of mankind is regarded as one family. This process is seen by Baha'is as the progressive unfoldment of the will of God through history.
It is therefore not surprising that such leaps in social organization should coincide with the beginning of some of the world's major religions. Each signalizes a fresh infusion of God's power into creation. The unification of the family coincides with the appearance of Abraham; the unification of families into tribes was accomplished by Moses when he welded the oppressed of Egypt into the tribe of Israel.
The unification of the tribes of Arabia into the Arab nation was accomplished by Muhammad. The work of each of these Messengers of God, and others such as Jesus, Krishna, Buddha, Zoroaster, and Baha'u'llah, was accomplished by building on the foundations established by their predecessors.
In the Baha'i view, the world's religions can thus be seen as necessary and interdependent components of a historical process.
Additionally, we notice that leaps in social organization do not occur smoothly. They are invariably accompanied by tremendous social and personal upheaval. Witness the disruption of Egyptian society when Moses promoted the word of God and led the Jews out of captivity, or the tumult surrounding Jesus' teaching of the word to the Jewish nation under the subjugation of Rome.
We now find ourselves in a similar time, except that now the tumult is worldwide, affecting seemingly every country and society on earth. These tribulations should be seen as the inevitable consequence of a world which believes in separation and isolation when in fact it has become economically, technologically, and spiritually interdependent.
We also notice that at their appearance the world's great religions appear to be doomed to failure. Jewish unity appeared doomed until Moses led them out of Egypt, after which they became the world's dominant civilization. Thus we see the persecution of the early Christians at the hands of the Romans and the Jews, only to see the teachings of Christ triumph until it is the most widespread religion in the world. In present times, it can appear as though efforts toward world unity are doomed to perish to the forces of nationalism, communism, and racism.
However, Baha'is are optimistic because we believe that the forces impelling the world to achieve unity are God-inspired and God directed, and therefore ultimate success is inevitable.
Baha'is view the establishment of the United Nations as a preliminary stage in the establishment of world unity. It may be seen as similar to the first steps of a baby, with all of its attendant stumbling and falling. No one who has seen a baby struggling to learn to walk could imagine that the infant could eventually manifest the grace of a Michael Jordan or Mikhail Barishnykov. We do not become discouraged by a baby's stumblings because we know from experience that these steps are only the start of along process which will culminate in walking, running, and dancing.
So too should we view preliminary steps in the process of establishing world unity, such as the League of Nations and the United Nations.
We need to understand that we are witnessing the beginning stages of the final component of that vast, God-driven historical process which will culminate in the establishment of the Kingdom of God on earth.
©Copyright 1996, Beloit Daily News